Who is Charles Townshend?





Charles Townshend, who had been Secretary of War, was made First Lord of Trade two months before Grenville became Royal Premier of the British American colonies in 1763. He was a thorough aristocrat and stickler for the royal prerogative, and was disposed to act with more rigor in restraining popular liberty in America than any of his predecessors. He advocated the substitution of royal authority for the colonial charters, and a new territorial arrangement of the provinces. The conclusion of peace with France, then very near, was to be the time when these vigorous measures against the Americans were to be put into operation; and as preliminary thereto, Townshend proposed making crown officers in the colonies independent of the people for their salaries, and maintaining a standing army there at the expense of the inhabitants for their own subjugation. He also proposed a stamp tax, which Bute had suggested to Parliament on the recommendation of his secretary Charles Jenkinson; and when, soon afterward, Jenkinson became Secretary of the Treasury, he proposed the measure to Grenville. The latter, at about the same time, with short-sightedness equal to Townshend's, introduced a bill for enforcing the navigation laws, which empowered every officer and seaman of the British navy to act as custom-house officers and informers, and so subjecting to search and seizure every American vessel on sea or in port. These measures for enslaving and plundering the colonists were proposed, and partially put into operation, at the moment when peace was established and the loyal colonies were rejoicing because of the honor and dominion which the war just ended had won for the British crown. Otis, at a town-meeting in Boston, expressed the feelings of the Americans, when he said: "We in America have abundant reason to rejoice. The heathen are driven out and the Canadians conquered. The British dominion now extends from sea to sea, and from the great rivers to the ends of the earth. Liberty and knowledge, civil and religious, will be co-extended, improved and preserved to the latest posterity. No constitution of government has appeared in the world so admirably adapted to these great purposes as that of Great Britain. Every British subject in America is, of common right, by act of Parliament, and by the laws of God and nature, entitled to all the essential privileges of Britons. By particular charters particular privileges are justly granted, in consideration of undertaking to begin so glorious an empire as British America. Some weak and wicked minds have endeavored to infuse jealousies with regard to the colonies; the true interests of Great Britain and her plantations are mutual, and what God in his providence has united, let no man dare attempt to pull asunder." These words rebuked the Lords of Trade, who were continually assailing the royal ear with stories about the aspirations of the American colonies for absolute independence; and they were also a significant demand upon Charles Townshend to keep his hands off the American charters.





Return to Our Country, Vol II